LAKE CHARLES, La. – The Bearkats walked into Cowboy Stadium to face No. 6 McNeese State as underdogs, considering the recent struggles they have had. The Kats (2-4, 0-2 SLC) were competitive – at least through the first half – but critical mistakes early in the second half all but sealed the game for McNeese State (6-0, 2-0 SLC).
The Cowboys defeated Sam Houston State 31-21, handing the Bearkats their fourth straight loss on Saturday.
“They have a good team,” Sam Houston State head coach Todd Whitten said. “When you play a good team on the road, one thing you can’t do is turn the ball over.”
The Bearkats saw the Cowboys’ ability to drive down the field early in the game. Four of the Cowboys’ five first-half drives reached inside the Bearkats’ 30-yard line, two of which resulted in the Bearkats’ defense forcing two turnovers.
Despite gaining 266 yards in the first half, McNeese State could only muster 10 points off those possessions and entered halftime with a 10-7 lead.
Almost as soon as the second half was underway, things started to go south for the Kats.
On their second offensive play in the second half, Sam Houston State quarterback Rhett Bomar connected with tight end Blake Martin for 21 yards when McNeese State safety Kody Knox jarred the ball loose and the Cowboys’ linebacker Allen Nelson recovered the fumble.
McNeese State took advantage of the turnover, driving 58 yards on eight plays, and scored when sophomore Toddrick Pendland ran it in for a 7-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Catron Houston returned the ball 19 yards before McNeese State forced another fumble and the Cowboys’ defensive back John Vigers came up with the ball on the Bearkats’ 24-yard line.
On the very next play, Pendland pounded through the Bearkat defense, breaking tackles along the sideline before muscling in for the Cowboys’ second touchdown in 17 seconds.
The Bearkats fought back in the fourth quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns off of a 7-yard run by Chris Poullard and a 20-yard connection to Poullard from Bomar. But the deficit was too great to overcome and McNeese State coasted to its sixth straight victory.
“We fought hard,” Bearkat linebacker Luke McCall said. “That’s one thing about this team. We may not play as well as we want to, but we always play hard.”
The Bearkats’ running game, which has struggled in the past two games, had an effective performance against the Cowboys. Poullard rushed for 103 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns against one of the top rushing defenses in the Southland Conference.
“We really thought we needed to negate the pass rush,” Whitten said. “They’re very athletic.”
The Bearkats will attempt to turn things around this week when they face Northwestern State (3-3, 2-1 SLC) Saturday.
“We have to stick together as a team and bounce back,” Whitten said. “We have a great opportunity with Northwestern. We just have to keep working hard.”